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How Safe Are Colorado’s Roads?

Despite better inspection and more oversight, truck crashes are killing more people.  The deadly I-70 wreck earlier this year was unusually severe, but fatality rates have been rising in the last decade.  As a recent article in The Denver Post pointed out, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks in the United States increased by 42 percent between 2009 and 2017. In Colorado, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks more than doubled between 2009 and 2017, from 35 to 80. As Denver accident attorneys, we have seen firsthand how devastating a truck crash can be for our clients and their loved ones.  Despite the fact that state and federal agencies are increasing oversight and inspections of commercial vehicles, crashes involving large trucks are still a major problem in Colorado. 

Who Regulates Truck Safety?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) holds primary authority for establishing and enforcing laws and regulations aimed at reducing truck accidents on our roads and highways. Established by the FMSCA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) set forth an extensive set of rules and standards regulating the trucking industry.  Additionally, at the state level, various agencies, including the Colorado Department of Transportation, establish and enforce laws governing the operation of trucks and other commercial vehicles within the state.

Over the past decade, government agencies responsible for overseeing roadside inspections of large trucks have rolled out an extremely sophisticated system to track mechanical and safety violations across the country.  Colorado was among the earliest participants.

Driver Error Persists as the Prevailing Factor in Most Crashes

This includes error by the drivers of surrounding vehicles who are often found to be at fault, whether because they are distracted, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or are otherwise driving recklessly. The FMCSA has indicated that driver-related factors, including speeding, tailgating, drowsy driving, and failure to stay in the correct lane are the cause of 31% of fatal truck crashes. Combined with the frequency of trucking traffic entering Colorado from other states, it is difficult for Coloradans to feel confident that the truck drivers traveling our treacherous mountain passes and choked interstates are safe.

Education and Training Needed

Because of the increased risks associated with large trucks, such vehicles must be driven by qualified and experienced drivers with special commercial driver’s licenses. Unfortunately, a nationwide shortage of truck drivers has prompted many trucking companies to hire drivers with insufficient experience to handle big rigs. 

Education and training of commercial vehicle operators is also needed to stem the tide of truck crashes in the U.S.  In particular, drivers who will be traveling through Colorado or other mountainous regions should be trained to handle steep mountain descents, by practicing slowing techniques to avoid having their brakes overheat.

In the meantime, drivers of passenger vehicles sharing the roadways with trucks can do their part to protect themselves from accidents.

How Our Denver Accident Attorneys Can Help You

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident and you are considering a personal injury lawsuit, we welcome you to contact us, by email or phone at (303) 333-8000 to schedule a free consultation.

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